The notorious backlog in Tasmania’s Supreme Court is a step closer to being cleared, with legislation to increase efficiencies in the court system set to pass the lower house.
The backlog of cases last year prompted Chief Justice Alan Blow to directly call on the state government to do more to address the problem at a legislative level.
Yesterday, the House of Assembly debated the Justice Miscellaneous (Court Backlog and Related Matters) Bill 2020. Both Labor and the Greens have indicated they will support the legislation, securing its passage through the lower house.
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“These reforms will improve administrative efficiency in the courts by reducing the delay involved in matters moving back and forward between the Magistrates Court and the Supreme Court,” Attorney-General Elise Archer said.
The bill seeks to bring in new limits on defendants’ ability to apply directly to the Supreme Court for bail when it can be applied for in the Magistrates Court. It also amends existing legislation to enable numerous offences to be dealt with summarily and increases property value thresholds for minor offences that can be dealt with summarily from $5000 to $20,000 and for electable offences that can be dealt with summarily from $20,000 to $100,000.
Furthermore, it amends Tasmania’s Criminal Code to make stalking and bullying electable offences if both the defence and prosecution agree to the matter being dealt with summarily. An electable offence is one which the defendant may choose to have dealt with by either the Magistrates Court or the Supreme Court, unless the Magistrates Court determines which court it should be heard in.
Labor justice spokeswoman Ella Haddad said the reforms would enhance access to justice.
“There’s changes being made to the Bail Act, the Criminal Code, the Criminal Justice (Mental Impairment) Act, the Justices Act, the Misuse of Drugs Act, the Police Offences Act and the Sentencing Act that are aimed at reducing that court backlog in the Supreme Court and improving administrative efficiency in courts at both levels,” Ms Haddad said.
Greens justice spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff noted that the Australian Lawyers Alliance had pointed out that a factor contributing to the Supreme Court backlog was the “insufficient” disclosure of police evidence in the Magistrates Court, which wasn’t addressed in the bill.
But the minister said there had been “systemic improvement” to disclosure processes contained in legislation enacted last year.
The debate continues.
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